F1 teams propose points system change

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The Independent Online

Formula One team bosses have unveiled plans designed to cut costs and increase the sport's global appeal, including proposals for a new points scoring system and shorter races.

The Formula One Teams Association (FOTA), which represents the 10 current teams in the sport, agreed unanimously on a series of proposals to help weather the global financial crisis.

"This is of historic importance for Formula One," Luca di Montezemolo, the FOTA chairman and president of Ferrari, said at a news conference in Geneva.

"The plans are not revolutionary," he said. "We have to improve step-by-step something which is already very good. For us, the sponsors, the spectators, for TV."

FOTA said team budgets could be halved for the 2010 season from the pre-financial crisis peaks of 2008 which saw Japanese car giant Honda leave the sport in December after spending £200m. The Honda team is set to return this season with new backers.

The teams proposed to provide affordable engines, ban in-season testing and limit technological updates over the next two seasons.

It also suggested changes designed to appeal to fans and television viewers after conducting market research in 17 countries.

Race winners would get 12 championship points instead of the current ten after fans said they wanted drivers to get more credit for a victory. FOTA proposed a points scale of 12-9-7-5-4-3-2-1 for the top eight finishers.

Races could be reduced in 2010 to a maximum of 250 kilometers, or 1 hour, 40 minutes, to fit more easily in television schedules.

FOTA also wants to take fans behind the scenes on race days by giving broadcasters access to radio communications between drivers and their pit teams.

It proposed making more technical data available so broadcasters can create better on-screen graphics and commentators can offer more in-depth analysis.

"We are the best TV show in the world," said Renault team boss Flavio Briatore, who headed a FOTA working group on commercial development.

"We have everything — technology, glamor, danger, power," Briatore said. "We need a less predictable product. We need to be more open to the media and fans."

Drivers could be required to meet fans at autograph-signing sessions and team spokesmen would be available for television interviews during races.

The FOTA proposals would need to be approved by the FIA governing body which meets March 17 to consider the blueprint.

Di Montezemolo said teams wanted a strong partnership with the FIA, headed by Max Mosley, and Formula One Management — the sport's commercial rights holder controlled by Bernie Ecclestone.

"We have to say that Bernie has done a fantastic job," di Montezemolo said. "We want a strong political regulator in the FIA."

FOTA cannot claim a greater share of FOM's revenues before their current agreement ends in 2012.

Until then, it is looking to cut technical costs with greater engine efficiency, reduced testing, and limits on new technology.

FOTA believes that team engine costs can by halved in 2009 and reduced by a further 37.5 per cent next year. It wants to double the mileage during the life of an engine and limit teams to eight engines per driver per season.

Engines would be available at €8 million ($10 million) per team this season, lowered to €5 million ($6.3 million) next season. Gearboxes would be available at €1.5 million ($1.9 million) per team next year with development frozen until 2012.

Aerodynamic testing would be restricted and so-called "exotic materials" banned from car construction.

Mario Thessien, principal of the BMW Sauber team who led the FOTA technical working group, said reduction in the sport's high-tech appeal would be balanced by a greater emphasis on drivers' skills.

Fans in the global survey said they wanted to see more overtaking and drivers allowed to show their ability.

The new 17-race Formula One season starts in Australia on 29 March.